Friday 6 November 2020

The Astrology of Plagues in the Shadow of the Coronavirus Outbreak

Time will tell if the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) will enter the pages of history as one of the worst pandemics on record. A pandemic which wrecked entire economies and changed the trajectory of nations. At the moment of writing (April 2020) this seems to be the case but like many other historical events true understanding only comes with hindsight.

Let's assume for a moment that the Mars-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius is a pivotal moment in the occurrence of the current coronavirus outbreak. If this is true we should note the position of the heavenly bodies on the 31st of March 2020, the date of the exact conjunction. These included: the latter conjunction between the two malefics, Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Capricorn, the nodes in the Capricorn-Cancer axis, Chiron in Aries, Uranus in Taurus, and a time frame which is less than a year short of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius. This dry list of planetary placements would prove vital for this short article, since the primary objective is to try and understand which combination of astrological influences is capable of producing a large scale, and at times global, pandemic.

As far as plagues are concerned in world history, the largest and most deadly in the history of the west were the 14th century outbreak of bubonic plague in Europe, the Spanish flu which burst into the scene towards the end of the First World War, and the Plague of Justinian which erupted in the Byzantine Empire during the 6th century CE. The 14th century bubonic plague took the lives of between a quarter to half of the population, the Spanish flu reduced the world's population by a figure of between 20 million to 50 million men, and the Plague of Justinian inflicted a similar death toll to the 14th century bubonic plague in the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin[1]. An astrological and historical review will help us understand whether a unique astrological signature exists for such outbreaks of mass death caused by tiny microorganisms.

The Astrology of the Black Death in Europe

The 14th century outbreak of bubonic plague in Europe is more widely known as the Black Death. That particular outbreak started its way in central Asia in the fourth decade of the 14th century, from which it spread to the Crimean peninsula in 1346, and then to Italy in 1347, from which it spread to the rest of Europe. According to one estimate, the first wave of plague caused the death of no less than half of the continent's population as it gradually advanced inside mainland Europe between the years 1347 to 1352. The Black Death was carried by rat fleas and its fastest spread routes were commercial shipping lanes[2]. The Black Death outbreak in the 14th century is easily one of the most terrible pandemics humanity has ever witnessed.

Already during the days of the Black Death notable contemporary astrologers found blame with particular planetary patterns, which aren't so different from the ones we're witnessing today with coronavirus. The Paris medical faculty issued an official report which hanged the blame for the plague's creation on the triple conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, which happened in Aquarius during the month of March in the year 1345[3]. This is not very different than what we've recently experienced with the near conjunction of these three planets in another Saturn domicile, in Capricorn during February to March 2020. A further look into the 1345 placements reveals another important similarity to the contemporary coronavirus placements. In both cases the asteroid Chiron was placed in Aries, and it shouldn't escape us that the simple symbolism of such a combination is "new diseases". Additional comparison shows that just like today the nodal axis in 1345 was transiting a cardinal modality, then it was in the Libra-Aries axis. Moreover the troublesome south node was positioned in the same sign such as Pluto. Please note that 1345 is approximately two years before the Black Death has reached the shores of Europe, but according to the Paris medical faculty it was necessary to look back in order to trace the origin of the disease. From a historical viewpoint this of course makes sense, since the plague began its course in central Asia before it advanced westward into Europe. Concerning some of the period's later planetary positions, 1347 was the year in which Jupiter perfected a conjunction to Pluto. A major symbolism in a context such as this is "death on a mass scale", and of course we have a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in our time as well. Lastly, I may throw into the mix a less obvious but a persistently recurring pattern of Mars retrograde in Leo, which occurred during the time of December 1347, a short time before the plague continued its spread from Italy to the rest of Europe. This may be an opportune time to mention that in Greek myth Apollo, the Sun god, was also associated with the outbreak of diseases, while the Sun of course is the planetary ruler of the sign Leo.
The Black Death in Florence, 1348


The Astrology of the Spanish Flu

The Spanish flu is probably the first global pandemic, it raged between the years 1918 to 1920, following the tragedy of the First World War. According to estimates, about one quarter of the world's population back then contracted the flu, and the mortality rate has reached a figure of 5%, that is one out of twenty cases. Unlike many other diseases in the history of medicine which tended to kill off the very young and the elderly, the Spanish flu proved most fatal to people who were in the prime of their years, ages 20-40. Additionally it's important to point out that while the first and less fatal wave of the flu hit in the spring of 1918, the second more potent wave hit in the summer of 1918, bringing with it an influx in the fatality rate. The sudden transformation in severity was possibly due to a mutation in this particular variant of influenza virus, and the name Spanish flu originated due to contemporaneous publication which wrongly pointed to Spain as especially infected[4].

From the point of view of Astrology, we can find similar patterns in the chart placements of the coronavirus, the Black Death and the Spanish flu years. There are some dissimilarities too, and I'll address those as well. First and foremost it's important to point out that also in the case of the Spanish flu the conjunction between Jupiter and Pluto appears, and it perfects side by side with the deadly second wave of August 1918. Another point of resemblance is Chiron's ingress into Aries in the spring of 1918. Similarly to its present position, it spent the years of the Spanish flu in the first degrees of Aries. Again, much like today, in January 1918 the nodes were positioned in the first degrees of the Capricorn-Cancer axis. Also it's revealing that the Spanish flu outbreak occurred about a year or two before the great conjunction of Jupiter-Saturn in Virgo during the year 2021. Not unlike our own time, it seems that the short sequence of years before the great conjunction coincides with much turmoil, as if the world is in a "balsamic moon" phase. Back to the list of indicators, it might be worthwhile to point out that Pluto transited through a cardinal sign again, that time it was in Cancer. It's one of the main indicators, as we'll later see. More on Pluto, it should be noted that Pluto was in the same sign as the North Node in the early stages of 1918. Lastly, it's important to point out Mars' retrograde motion in Leo, two years before the outbreak of the Spanish flu, during March 1916. The retrograde motion of Mars in Leo is mentioned here for the second but not the last time. As far as differences are concerned, we can find outer planets placements in Capricorn or Aquarius during both the coronavirus crisis and the Black Death years but not during the Spanish flu period. Also in the case of the Spanish flu we cannot find many planetary placements in air signs, despite the contagiousness of that influenza strand.

Red Cross nurses tend to Spanish
patients in California, 1918

The Astrology of the Justinianic Plague

The Justinianic Plague is named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, and it occurred during one of the empire's golden epochs. The capital of the byzantine empire was Constantinople, which was probably the world's biggest metropolis during that time period, but the bubonic plague which hit the city during the year 541 CE changed the course of history by relegating a minor role for the Byzantine empire henceforth. The plague itself was similar to the later 14th century outbreak of Black Death in Europe. Behind the borders of the Byzantine empire the plague reached many port cities in the mediterranean, the Persian Sasanian empire, and many towns in the eastern half of the Mediterranean Basin. Much like the the Black Death which occurred eight centuries later, the death toll was between one third to half of the population[5].      

Astrologically speaking, the Plague of Justinian was characterized by a few very specific patterns, much like the later Black Death in Europe and somewhat like the Spanish influenza virus of the early 20th century. But first, on the origin of the plague, historians agree that the plague came to Constantinople through Egypt, but there's no consensus on whether the plague reached Egypt from India, Africa or from a different location[6]. This is also the reason why we examine the transits of September 539, two years before the plague reached the Byzantine capital. If so, the main similarities in terms of planetary positions are Pluto in Capricorn, the nodes in Capricorn-Cancer axis, a Mars conjunction to Saturn in Libra, Jupiter in Aquarius, and Uranus in the earth sign Virgo. This short list is comprised of many parallels to the current astrological placements, experienced throughout the coronavirus. Notice the similar position of Pluto, the similar although reversed placement of the nodal axis, the Mars-Saturn conjunction in an air sign, the position of Jupiter in a sign whose ruler is Saturn, and lastly the placement of Uranus in an earth sign. It's also worthwhile to mention Mars' retrograde motion in the sign of Leo during the month of December 542, at the zenith of the plague and its utmost spread along the Mediterranean Basin. In the category of dissimilarity to other plagues which were surveyed, the Justinianic Plague didn't occur prior to the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and the Jupiter-Pluto conjunction perfects too early relative to the plague, in December of 537. It would also be interesting to examine Chiron's placement during those years, but sadly ephemeris data on Chiron during the first millennium is incomplete. 

Byzantine emperor Justinian
during whose time the plague 
raged in Constantinople.

The Plague Which Never Was

For fairness' sake we must point out that in the year 846 CE a similar planetary pattern, to the ones which were described in this article, was present. However, there is no historical record of a contemporaneous plague. To be more precise, September 846 included the following planetary placements: Jupiter in Capricorn, Saturn in Aquarius, Uranus in Taurus, the nodes in the Cancer-Capricorn axis, Chiron in Aries and Pluto in Aries as well, a cardinal sign mind you. Furthermore, we are dealing with a period of about two years before the great conjunction, which occurred in the month of May 848, and a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction which occurred in January 849. All things considered, this bears a major likeness to planetary positions during the Black Death, the Spanish flu, the Justinianic Plague, and the the current coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, besides natural disasters and wars which occurred during the middle of the 9th century, there is no mention of a major plague in the historical chronicles of that time. This anomaly is difficult to explain, but one possible solution is that in this same critical month of September 846 there was a Jupiter-Neptune conjunction which had a mitigating effect on this otherwise corrupting planetary mixture. Another argument, which may explain this exception to the rule, is the nodal axis that year which wasn't aligned with either Saturn or Pluto, rather it was aligned to the arguably benefic conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune. 

A Summary of the Astrological Characteristics of Plagues   

We have become acquainted with a number of planetary configurations which tend to repeat themselves during times of mass sickness and plague. For the sake of convenience, and based on the findings of this small research, a list of such planetary factors is brought before you:

* A conjunction between Jupiter and Pluto
* Pluto in the same sign or conjunct the nodal axis, that is Pluto's involvement in the eclipse cycle
* A time period of around one to two years ahead of the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
* A conjunction between Mars and Saturn just prior to or at the beginning of the pandemic
* Chiron in Aries
* Pluto in a cardinal sign
* Uranus in an earth sign
* Jupiter in an earth or air sign
* Saturn in an earth or air sign
* Numerous planetary placements in either earth or air signs
* A retrograde Mars in the sign of Leo

Side by side, we must not forget the curious case of 846 CE, which shows that the presence of such planetary positions is not a sufficient condition for the outbreak of plague. The astrological branch of forecasting future events remains, as ever, an elusive prospect. Our friends, the scientists, know best that complex systems tend to surprise and frustrate the expectations of the researcher. Maybe Aristotle described it best when he said that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".  


[1] Aberth 22-28, 36-53, 117-123.
[2] Ibid 36-53.
[3] Horrox 158-173.
[4] Aberth 117-123.
[5] Ibid 22-28.
[6] Rosen 193-197


Aberth, John. 
Plagues in World History. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011.

Horrox, Rosemary. The Black Death. Manchester University Press, 1994.

Rosen, William. 
Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire and the Birth of Europe. Random House, 2010. 

This article was first published in Hebrew in the astrological magazine, on the 5th of May 2020. 
To access the original version of the article please use the following URL:האסטרולוגיה-של-מגפות-בצל-התפרצות-וירו

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